Monday, December 11, 2017

December 11 – “impromptu”

We had an impromptu church workday yesterday to go along with our impromptu dinner on the grounds.  The food was a result of the cool day on Saturday.  That made most people go for the soups at the Bethlehem Market CafĂ©, which in turn left a lot of brisket behind.  So yesterday we had brisket after church.  Oh, and a little taco soup as well.  Good stuff.  Great fellowship, too.

And after the food we attacked the rest of the tear down after the market.  Well, mainly we got the bunks up in the retreat center hauled back into their proper rooms and re-assembled.  And here’s where many kudos go to Corey and Janell.  They had the things almost done before the rest of us even got upstairs.  And I understand the other Cory (no “e”) and Sarah were a huge help up there as well.  I know when I got there, all I had left to do was box up a bunch of books.  We’re going to let the homeschool music coop people take a look at them first and take what they want.  Then I guess we’ll donate them to the library sale or maybe just to Salvation Army.  We still have three or four Christmas trees to take down upstairs, but they can just keep the place festive until after the first of the year.  Now my only task remaining is to take down the advertising on the church marquee.  That’ll happen Wednesday at staff meeting.

Can’t tell you how good it felt to just sit down, put my knee up, and watch a good Hallmark movie.  Well, I think it was good.  The parts of it I remember were good, anyway.  I did crash for “just a minute or two to rest my eyes.” 

Oh, and one unusual thing happened in church.  We didn’t have a single visitor in attendance.  Oh, we still had forty or so Seasiders there, but everyone had been before, so it was just us Seaside Family.  That just doesn’t happen very often around here.  Felt kind of strange. 

Last night we watched the live streaming of the Christmas pageant at Columbus Avenue Baptist Church in Waco.  Caleb and Zak sang in the children’s choir portion.  Zak was very grown-up and professional-looking.  Caleb was quite animated in his swaying and smiling as he enjoyed the moment.  Luke had a key role as well.  He played the young boy Jesus who received the wise men into his home about two years after his birth.  Luke was an incredible actor.  He pointed at the approaching entourages.  He moved into his appropriate spot next to the Mary and Joseph characters.  And he accepted each gift from the wise men with grace and poise beyond his years.  Could have been a movie segment.  Nice job Vaughan Boys.  (Not that I’m a proud old grandpa or anything).  Oh, and the rest of the Columbus music ministry did a good job, too. 

Psalms 16:5-6 says, “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.  The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”

Father, thank you for church Christmas pageants that highlight children.  Oh, and thanks for Hallmark movies, too.  Amen.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

December 10 – “Bethlehem Street Market Recap 2017”

Another Bethlehem Street Market is officially in the books.  Well, it will be as soon as we finish all the cleanup.  The Seaside team once again pulled together to pull off an amazing event.  Special kudos this time to my lovely wife Chris for coordinating the entire thing.  You’d be hard-pressed to find another organizer as efficient as she has been.

Best guess is that well over 200 people made their way in and through the Seaside worship and retreat center and through the array of vendors setup outside under the retreat center.  And every one of them was given a gift bag with a New Testament inside.  There were four or five vendors who were afraid to brave the nip in the air, but those who did were rewarded with a beautiful day.  Totals are not all in yet but we made over a thousand dollars for missions.  But the best part of the whole day was the way the community and the church came together for some fun … and some practical Christmas shopping.

On the scary side, we started the day after Galveston’s first snowfall since 2004 with a blanket of frost on the ground and vehicles and … ramps.  Both of our ramps – and anything made of wood (read here the deck of the retreat center) were quite slick for a good portion of the vendor setup time.  Warnings were issued all around, but sure enough, one of our young ladies exited the building upstairs, performed one of the most beautiful and graceful pirouettes I have ever seen (unintentional, of course), and landed on her back … side.  She was embarrassed but seemed to be OK physically.  A little while later one of the vendors was making her sixth or seventh trip down the worship center ramp when she, too hit a slick patch and went to the ground.  It took her a while longer and several of us helping for her to get back up and move around again. 

And on the vehicular side, we got one notice that a car was stuck in the sloshy grass of one of our parking lots.  Several of us hurried out to help, and managed to get her going again.  And before we issue another warning, a second vehicle was stuck in about the same place.  I only heard about this one after the fact, but apparently our Jamaica Beach fire chief had just driven up, so he took control of the situation.  Thanks for the help, Kyle.

So much for the negative.  Here are a few anecdotes from the day:

As the vendors were setting up, one of them asked no one in particular if “they” (meaning Seaside) by any chance had an extra tablecloth around she could borrow.  Before any of us could respond, a voice rang out from a vendor in the next room, “I have an extra.”  During the day I saw vendors chatting and showing each other how to make the different kinds of crafts on display.  And at the end of the day vendors were helping each other carry display cases and merchandise back to their cars.  I’m not an expert on the craft fair circuit, but I was told that such behavior is the exception rather than the rule among this crowd.  Hey, I’ll go for that exception any day. 

One Seaside gentleman there to help was amazed at the whole situation.  He told me no less than six times that it reminded him of one of the Hallmark movies he loved to watch on TV.  In that scenario I felt like the underappreciated handyman to Chris’ absolute dominance as the event coordinator.  Maybe we could sell movie rights.

One lady approached me with a question about a particular Christmas ornament she had seen on one of our decoration trees.  I checked around to see what she was talking about.  It was one that had been donated in a box full of ornaments.  She wanted to buy that particular one.  I told her she could donate whatever she wanted “into the pot” and it was hers.  She told me, “Well, I just bought an ornament downstairs for ten dollars, so here’s ten for this one.  Where’s the pot?”  Easiest sale of the day.

Here’s one posted by one of our out of town vendors and friend Pat:
Today's adventure - I leave Galveston around 5 pm heading to Hallettsville. I had my phone GPS set to bypass downtown Houston. I THOUGHT it was directing me to I-10, but instead it put me on Hwy 90. Of course, it was pitch dark, and I didn't want to risk getting lost so I just followed the instructions. Everything was going well UNTIL traffic stopped in the middle of nowhere. We sat forever (probably 10 minutes, but it felt like forever) and I heard all kinds of sirens, so I thought it must be a BAD accident. Finally, we start inching forward and notice that there is a truck picking up the traffic cones. One of the workers motioned for us to move into the center turn lane. We started moving along and I noticed all these people along the sides of the road. All of a sudden I realized as I approached a fire truck with a Santa riding on top that I was now IN a Christmas parade!!! I saw a Family Dollar and gap in front of the fire truck so I darted into the FD parking lot. I went inside and told the worker what had just happened and she was rolling. I think my spiritual gift is making people laugh.

Finally, I have to give my Christmas saying of the week award to the lady with the sweatshirt that read, “Go Jesus … It’s Your Birthday!”  Yup.

Psalms 16:2 says, “I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.’”

Father, thank you for the great teamwork and spirit of cooperation we saw yesterday.  Honor that spirit with some great blessing.  Amen.

Friday, December 8, 2017

December 9 – “Snow day?”

Where was I?  Oh, yes … “So now we face today.  To start with, it’s snowing.”  Well, it was not snowman snowing, but Galveston flurries.  That’s usually enough to close the schools, but we never did get to that extreme. 
Now, I confess.  At 5 a.m. I was up and walking around outside with a flashlight.  Why?  I was trying to locate the alleged snowflakes.  I did see a few, so it was confirmed.  And Chris had told me that if I got up in the middle of the night and it was snowing, to wake her up and tell her.  Since 5 a.m. is the middle of the night for her, I did what she asked.  I’m not sure she ever saw the actual snow coming down.  She tried, though.  Then she went back to bed. 

We had to make another trip to the church to do Bethlehem Market stuff.  I had to move the car to make it easier to load up some boxes for the Scroll Den at the Market.  But don’t worry.  I managed to evade the falling snow particles.  Both of them.  Strangely enough, the farther west we drove the more snow we saw.  There was even snow on the roof of the church when we got there.  And someone posted a picture on FaceBook of a snowman on the beach.  He must have been at least six or eight inches tall. 

Ah, all this weather has me exhausted.  In fact, I’m writing this last night so I don’t have to open up the computer this morning.  We had to get up at five a.m. to get to church by 6:30 for Bethlehem Street Market setup today.  So I may as well post this last night as well.  I’m already confused.  Why not?

Psalms 13:5-6 says, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.”

Father, use the market to draw community and church folks together.  Amen.

December 8 – “Commander Mode”

Chris is in full on commander mode.  The street market is tomorrow and she has not yet done everything she wants to do ahead of time.  That means today will probably be a long one.  As if yesterday wasn’t.

And what made it so long?  Chris started out with her weekly home group level deep clean of the house.  There are other levels of clean both above and below home group level, but suffice it to say, she makes sure the house looks nice on Thursdays.  When I wasn’t vacuuming (Hey, that’s the one part of cleaning that I don’t mind doing.  It’s also the part that the neck doc says is not good for what ails me.  Oh, well), I had a little time to work on my Dad gifts.  They are taking more effort than usual this year.  Crafty, crafty, crafty. 

Then we had to go to Sam’s for supplies for the Market.  That means a run into Texas, a fairly quick spin around Sam’s avoiding the “free gift” sections where we could have won a free knife or a bottle of miracle cleanser.  From there we hurried back to the Island so we could stop at WalMart and pick up some more icicle lights for the church.  That’s on the agenda for today, by the way … finish hanging lights.  Finally, we drove out to the church to drop everything off.  I think Chris really wanted to stay and at least get those lights hung, but it was getting close to time when people start coming over for group, so she tore herself away. 

Once back at the house the phone calls and texts began.  Several people let us know they would not be here.  Lauren was helping cook the brisket for the Market.  Sam wasn’t feeling too well.  Mrs. Betty just didn’t want to get out in the cold and rain (and she didn’t need to).  Found out after that Cathy got tied up decorating a Christmas tree at church (Actually there was a bit more to her story involving a lost cell phone.  I don’t know why she didn’t just call us and ask us to call her phone.  Oh, wait.  That might require having her phone up front, wouldn’t it?).  Anyway, just Brian and Jennifer and Corey were here, so we adjusted our format and did some sharing and praying around the table. 

So now we face today.  Let me check my weather app.  It’s 36 degrees.  And it’s snowing.  Here we go …

Psalms 10:17-18 says, “You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.”

Father, keep folks safe who have to be on the roads in all this cold wet mess.  We’re just not used to it.  Amen.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

December 7 – “Crafty”

At least two key events of import occurred on this day.  One, of course was the bombing of Pearl Harbor that drew the U.S. into World War II, a day that will live in infamy.  The other was the birth of my older brother, a day that will … well … Happy birthday, Big Bro. 

Jim and I finally got back to staff meetings yesterday after a holiday hiatus.  It’s not like we go through some super formal meeting process.  Sometimes I do an agenda, but that’s so I don’t forget what we need to talk about.  Jim’s still young enough to remember what he wants to talk about.  But the thing I miss most when we don’t meet is the prayer we have together.  Again, it’s nothing bombastic.  It’s just a few minutes where each of us prays.  But there is power when two people agree in prayer.  I’m pretty sure I read that somewhere important …

Chris went to her Wednesday Club Christmas party for lunch.  She said there are only six or seven of them left coming.  Wonder how long that one will last.  Meanwhile, I took the opportunity to do some Dad gifts shopping.  No clue drops from this guy.  Not on these well-thought-out masterpieces.  I’ll just say that all of them will highlight my craftiness.  Just remember, “crafty” has more than one meaning …

Speaking of one of those meanings … When Chris got home we headed back to the church to work some more in prepping for Bethlehem Street Market.  We hung more icicle lights and garland.  We ran out of lights, though.  Guess that’ll mean another trip to WalMart today.  I’ll put it on the list after the trip to Sam’s to get hamburger buns for the brisket sandwiches.  I still have another sign to make, too, but that’s for the kitchen so people will know what varieties of soups we have available.  I may wait until Saturday to do that one so I know for sure which kinds show up.  I gotta tell you, it is tough living with the person in charge of the event, isn’t it, Ed (Ed is the husband of our church events coordinator, Lauren)?  Especially when she is a perfectionist like Chris.  Can’t argue with her success, though.  This event should be nothing short of amazing.  Varied vendors (More vendors than ever before).  Super soups (potato, broccoli cheese, chili, to name just a few).  Best brisket.  Prime people.  Greatest God. 

Psalms 10:14 says, “But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand.  The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.”

Father, please use this event to draw some folks toward yourself.  And to draw some community people toward each other.  Amen.  

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

December 6 – “Out-kindnessed”

After a hard morning and early afternoon working on the teaching for Sunday, my ears had an appointment in the afternoon.  Technically the appointment was for them to check my hearing aids.  That happens every three months or so.  The receptionist cleans them out, and then the tech lady crams the scope into my ear so she (And me, too.  It’s projected onto a large-screen TV monitor) can see if the hallways inside my ear canals are all clear of debris.  It can get pretty gross if there is a lot of wax in there.  Fortunately they were both relatively clear this time.  No major hallway obstructions.  It took a little longer than usual because the former technician who retired was back for a visit, so the other two were giddy.  Yep.  Giddy.  I grabbed my free batteries and slinked out the front door, leaving them to their memories and revelries.

From there I went over to Randall’s to get some stamps and some fruit.  Oh, and to test the holiday spirit waters, of course.  I made my usual request for 100 stamps to the lady at the customer service desk.  And suddenly she came to life.  Her eyes widened.  Her jaw dropped.  Her head leaned back as if she could no longer see me clearly and needed to adjust the distance so her internal telescope could get focused.  Then the grin appeared and she demanded (quite good-naturedly) to know what in the world I was going to do with that many stamps.  My answer?  “Mail stuff.”  She apparently thought that was the funniest thing she had heard all day, judging from her laughter.  She asked, “You’re mailing that many things?”  I answered, again as simply as I could muster, “Eventually.”  And again she burst into laughter.  By this time my transaction was complete, but she had one more thing to add ere I walked out of sight, “You can use one to send me a Christmas card,” followed by yet another explosion of laughter.  I threw her a final “Merry Christmas” and walked on to get the fruit.

By that time I was fully into the Christmas spirit.  I quickly gathered up my bananas and oranges and grapes and scoped out the checkout lines, looking for someone I had never seen before.  Yep, I was ready to use my old WalMart trick at Randall’s.  Spotting a likely suspect, I headed for the checkout line, determined to smile and offer her a turnabout pleasant shopping experience.  As she handed me my receipt, I tossed out what I thought was a chipper, “Merry Christmas.”  None of that “Happy Holidays stuff for me, you know.  She didn’t miss a beat.  She instantly replied, “Oh, Merry Christmas, sweetie.  But I know you’ll be back in here before then.  I’ll see you soon.”

Wow.  I love getting out-kindnessed.

Psalms 9:11 says, “Sing praises to the Lord, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done.”

Father, thank you for those two bubbly ladies I ran into at Randall’s and for the giddy ones over at the hearing aid place as well.  Bless them today.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

December 5 - “Wifi Woes, stenciling, and a baked potato”

I met the Comcast Cable guy at church yesterday.  We were just informed by our retreat center coordinator that the wifi up there hasn’t been working for some time.  So long in fact, that she didn’t even know there was supposed to be wifi.  The new modem in the worship center has been working great, but for some reason the signal isn’t strong enough to penetrate the tall metallic walls of the center upstairs.  It hasn’t been a problem for the homeschool group using the building every Friday.  They have just piggybacked off of someone’s phone signal.  And I guess the groups coming for retreats have done the same.  But this Saturday is the Bethlehem Street Market craft fair, and we have more vendors than ever before, many of whom are stationed inside those impenetrable retreat center walls.  They use wifi to connect to the internet so they can use their charge card devices.   So it is imperative we have it up and running. 

Taylor, the young technician they sent out, did a great job.  He identified all the connections we have up there for me, separating telephone from cable, and showing me what we really didn’t need.  The old cable modem was not operating at all.  Come to find out, the power cord had been frayed and was almost completely cut in two.  Explains the wifi outage.  He hooked up the new modem (that looks exactly like the one downstairs that has been working so well, by the way).  He even took the time to change the modem name and install our password.  And he gave me his phone number in case we had problems.  That way we can bypass the computer moat they have set up to screen calls.  I would say that we were all set in the wifi department for Bethlehem Market.

Once Taylor left the work began.  Chris adjusted and hung Christmas lights.  I was assigned signs to make for the market.  By the time Lauren arrived to get the potatoes cooking we were all set for Christmas in the worship room. 

OK wait.  I mentioned potatoes, so I guess I should explain.  Last night Seaside hosted a Christmas Stenciling Workshop.  One of our local ladies brought in her supplies and led us in making all sorts of Christmas signs.  Mine said JOY.  So did Cailyn’s.  We picked the easy one.  Chris wasn’t so lucky.  She did one that was a verse from Luke in the shape of a Christmas tree with a star on top.  It was one of the most difficult of the bunch.  But of course, she did awesome.  I was just glad to have the quite capable assistance of a high school young lady from St. Louis.  She was one of the most encouraging people I have ever met.  Lots of people there doing all sorts of stencils other than the three we had to choose from.  Most of them were returning customers working on specific special order stencils. 

Oh, but the potatoes.  Lauren, in her Events Planner wisdom, knew that for this event to really be complete, we needed that one extra draw … food.  So she brought in a bunch of potatoes and others brought the fixin’s to have a baked potato bar to kick off the evening.  It was a great icebreaker and a great overall start to a really fun night. 

Psalms 9:10 says, “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”

Father, thank you for Judy and her niece and daughter.  Their help was … really helpful.  Bless them.  Amen.